Saturday, 23 January 2021


dog and ferret sundries, etc: a fantastic hardware catalogue from the 1930s 

the roaring twenties: the Sea Shanty craze of a century before—via Strange Company 

midori: the relatively modern distinction between blue and green in Japan—see previously 

tag yourself: medieval owl alignment chart 

arkaphones: a resounding retrospective to artist Terry Adkins, who created sonic monuments  

for all the latest medical poop, call surgeon general c. everett koop: the fortune and failure of the post executive branch career of the doctor’s branded medical advice website  

ghost signs: self-appointed guardian of fading signage, collecting it before it vanishes altogether—we can all do this

abominable mystery

The aptly-named Professor Richard Buggs of Kew Gardens (previously) believes that researchers may be on the cusp to solving the above-named puzzle that Charles Darwin confessed to fellow explorer and scientist Dr Joseph Hooker in an 1879 exchange addressing the unaccountable evolution of the higher plants in recent times to include such apparently rapid innovations as flowers that could undermine his theory and the observed gradual process in the rest of the living world. Though perhaps closer to resolving the unconscionably quick rise of the angiosperms (blossoming species—some two-hundred-thousand in total), the conundrum, which some critics take as evidence of divine intervention, yet defies a full explanation albeit less vexing and cause for awe and appreciation of Nature.

black, brown and beige

The extended jazz orchestral ensemble piece by celebrated musician, bandleader and composer Duke Ellington (*1899 – †1974) performed as his debut concert in Carnegie Hall on this day in 1943 was a tone poem framed as a parallel history of the Black experience in America. A concert album with Mahalia Jackson was released in 1958. Learn much more from Indiana Public Media and listen to interviews about the significance of the piece and performance and hear the second and third movements of this narrative symphony.

bounty day

Celebrated on this day, the anniversary of the arrival of the mutineers (previously) on the remote, uninhabited island of Pitcairn in 1790, the population of four dozen decedents of the original settlers hold a re-enactment of their landing and burn effigies of the ship and one of the eight surnames (the McCoys died out in 1973), is honoured with the title “Family of the Year,” with the ceremonies concluding with a communal feast and ball. One of the smallest polities in the world (the community of the International Space Station I suppose would best the Pitkerners), the British Overseas Territory is governed by a representative of the Queen based in Wellington, New Zealand (over five-thousand kilometres distant) and a mayor appointed by a citizens’ council. Electricity is provided by diesel generators for fifteen hours daily and all residents share one internet connection (.pn—with Norfolk—being the top-level domain, the most traffic generated when a marketing campaign for Hunger Games presented it as the country code for Panem). Since 2015, same-sex marriage has been legalised, although there are no known people in such a relationship.


Via Kottke we are treated to a rousing recitation and call to action that poet Amanda Gorman composed in 2018 for the Climate Reality Project inspired by the awesome, humbling image of the Earth dawning over the lunar surface by the crew of Apollo 8. Riffing on the climate emergency, one stanza of Gorman’s words: 

Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world,
The riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve
To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect,
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours
To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve. 

More to explore at the links above. So, Earth, Pale Blue Dot. We will fail you not.

Friday, 22 January 2021

by hook or by crook

Though still uncertain what to call this implement that’s part of the standard quiver fireplace tools with this embarrassment of viable candidates: damper hook, a chimney hook, a fire iron though definitely not an andiron—the pair of trusses meant to let air circulate under a burning log and also called a firedog (Feuerbock)—associated with iron only through folk etymology and comes from the Old French term for bull, also called chenet—a little dog. Researching a bit further, however, we were delighted to learn that the term housewarming—coming of course from the act of warming a new house with gifts of firewood—with the party in Francophone countries referred to as a pendaison de crรฉmaillรจre, hanging of the chimney hook, the last installation of a new residence to mark the inaugural repast.

the food of the ducks

Loosely based on the 1904 H. G. Wells story The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth with small parts and cameo-appearances by young Ron Howard (a precocious inventor who takes on the part of Professor Redwood in the book who experimented with raising colossal chickens), choreographer and performer Toni Basil plus scenes of the courthouse square popularised by the Back to the Future and Gremlins franchises as well as the neighbourhood used for the establishing shots of the Leave It to Beaver and the Bewitched homes, the 1965 teen movie vehicle Village of the Giants was first lampooned by Mystery Science Theatre 3000 on this day in 1994. The afore-mentioned Genius accidentally discovers a growth serum—the ‘goo’ (Wells’ Herakleophorbia IV)—which is stolen by a group of out-of-town delinquents who ingest the substance to take over the city. The episode segments outside of movie-sign are in memoriam to the recently deceased Vincent Frank Zappa—though ostensibly about the recently made-redundant side-kick to mad scientist Doctor Clayton Forrester, TV’s Frank, temporarily replaced with recurring character Torgo.

land of hope and gloria

Having set forth specific detailed instructions for a funeral with military honours befitting her status and having passed away rather inconsiderately a distance from London on the Isle of Wight, the death of Victoria (previously) would have been a logistically fraught affair if it were not for her careful planning. Surrounded by her son and successor King Edward VII and grandson Wilhelm (future Prussian king and last Kaiser) and her favourite Pomeranian called Turi (see also), Victoria expired on this day in 1901, heretofore, the longest reigning British monarch. The state cortรจge travelled to Gosport with a fleet of yachts transporting the new king and mourners and Victoria was placed in her coffin, son and grandson aided by Prince Arthur, with an array of mementos from family and domestics, including a dressing gown that belonged to her departed husband Albert and a plaster cast of his hand as well as a lock of John Brown’s hair and a photograph of him that was artfully hidden from those paying last respects by carefully placed bouquet of flowers. The state funeral and procession took place 2 February.